Thursday, December 29, 2011

Celebrating A Perfect Savior Imperfectly

I hope Jesus comes back before I have to celebrate Christmas without my parents.
Truly, they do Christmas like no other.

Many years ago, I mentioned to my children that I thought we might have Christmas at our house in Las Vegas that year.
"It's tradition, Mooooom. We aaaalways go to Colorado. We aaalways go to Grammy and Papa's. We haaaave to go, Mom."
Thank goodness. That's the answer I was looking for. I want to spend Christmas in Colorado too.

My mom masterfully weaves old and new traditions into our Christmas holiday.
She faithfully bakes all of our favorites. She joyfully focuses us on the true meaning of Christmas. She wholeheartedly gives all of herself during the week. No mess made by us is a bother. No late nights preparing for the next day are ever mentioned. She loves Jesus and loves her family and uses this time to bring us all together.

My dad decorates the house for all of Colorado Springs to see. The pine tree that used to be small enough to be decorated by him standing up on a van is now so massive it requires a cherry picker. The lights twinkle from miles away. My brother and I used to help him. He does it all himself now. He gives generously and unselfishly and tends to all of our needs as we walk through the week. The snow is cleared, the gifts wrapped, and the surprise "visitors" always planned.

Together, they are quite a team.

We've tried to weave Jesus, gifts, family, and food all together into our Christmas holiday. We always wonder if we're doing it right. Are we honoring you, Lord?

We have some friends in Tucson that give their time, energy, and money to a local family during the weeks leading up to Christmas...anonymously. They give up their Christmas. They say that doing the holiday this way is more fun. They secretly bless and joyfully meet the needs of some other family. They love Christmas. They give of themselves. That must honor Jesus.

Some work in soup kitchens. Some welcome lonely people into their homes for the holidays. Some give sacrificially. Some go on vacations. What's the perfect way to celebrate Christmas? Is it all okay?

Our family gives gifts, we spend time with family, we go to our Christmas Eve service, we eat. We play games, we drive around and look at Christmas lights, we go to zoo lights (tradition, Matty!), we sing Christmas carols, we laugh. We welcome people into our home (actually into my parents' home), we take a picture with Santa at the mall, we bake, and then we eat some more. Is this okay, Lord? Are you okay with us giving gifts, lighting a Christmas tree, singing "Jingle Bells"? My brother added a fondue feast on Christmas Eve. My sister-in-law's new contribution to tradition this year was presenting three anonymous gifts to the kids. The kids got three secret gifts representing the gold, frankincense, and myrrh, given to Jesus. I love the idea. Our improved version of Santa. Of course, our littlest actually call this Santa. Are you okay with this, Lord? He knows our hearts. We want to honor Him.

But this year...even with my parents doing all the Christmas preparation and pointing us to the Savior, even with friends around me focusing on the true meaning of Christmas, I hardly prepared myself or my children for the celebration. Truly, until we got to Colorado--only three days before Christmas--I had relied solely on those around to point my children to our Savior's birth. I was distracted. Going through the motions. Anxious to get the holiday over. In fact, the first time I read the account of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus in the month of December was the night before Christmas when we were reading Luke. The foundation had been laid for us to truly worship our King---we just had to show up and rejoice---yet my heart wasn't in it. I hope my kids were more focused.

I sat through our Christmas Eve service trying to rein in my thoughts. Our little guys were busy. The two-year-old cousins were having a heart to heart chat through the service. The toddler babble was cute...but it wasn't about Jesus. It was about jingle bells.
"Jingle bells in my home."
"No, jingle bells in my home."
"Oh. I have jingle bells in my home. You no have jingle bells in your home."
"Yes. I have jingle bells."
On and on. Back and forth. It was so cute.
I was in the mood to be distracted anyway.

As the pastor ended the service, I heard him mention something about imperfect people trying to celebrate Christmas.
That totally struck a chord with me.
Imperfect people celebrating Christmas.
Sinful people trying to celebrate the birth of their Savior and honor Him in the process.

As I pondered our imperfect efforts to honor our perfect Savior, I found great peace in the fact that the whole reason for the season was our perfect Savior. Our efforts to honor our Lord may bring him glory, but they aren't the focus.
He's the focus.
The REASON the baby's in the manger is the focus.
He earth...wrapped in swaddling clothes...because WE AREN'T PERFECT.
Our imperfection brought Him to earth.
And we probably aren't going to celebrate that perfectly.

I know I didn't this year.
I wasn't completely moved by my Savior's birth.
Christmas has come and gone and I'm just now in the holiday mood.

Blessed are all of those who joyfully gazed at the Lord this Christmas season.
That baby in the manger is for you.
For me...distracted, slightly irritable, and selfish...
That baby is for me too.
Thank you, Lord, for the gift.
The gift that I truly have no idea how to worship.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Saying Goodbye

Someone's guilty of praying for us.
Thank you.
The deployment "goodbyes" evolved as peacefully as possible.
Can I say it again? Thank you! Oh, and thank you, Jesus.

We began in a "holding" room with all the other families of deploying people.
Build-a-bears were passed out to every child---my littlest were glad at that moment daddy was leaving. They got a build-a-bear out of the deal. Bags of stationary journeyed around the room and the Air Force personnel made themselves available for any thing deploying families might need.
How about an extra day? Can you give us an extra day?
Actually by this point, we're ready to just get this thing started.
Let's not postpone this goodbye one more day.

I spied on fellow deploying families. Some tears, lots of hugs, plenty of laughter. It was a fairly small group. The main body is not deploying for another week. Just a handful of the "lucky" get to leave before Christmas.

It's a brave group, these military families.
One other pilot was deploying at the same time and I only knew his family. All these other airmen deploying and I only knew one. That sort of made me sad. These other men and women are the core of this deployment--they maintain the airplanes, load the weapons, brief intelligence, and provide support. I hope my husband knows every single one of their names by the time he gets back...maybe he already knows their names. I hope he does. He can only do what he loves to do because of their competence. I sort of wanted to go meet them and thank their families. Not the right time for that. It's not the time for introductions.

The time ticks as you wait for the final call. The last hugs seem to drag on forever. Finally we watched him disappear into a secure room. Whew. At the last minute...wiggly Noah yells out, "Gooodbye, Daaadddy!" The little guy has no idea. Blessed innocence.

Is it harder to stay or harder to leave? I think both kinda stink, but I'd much rather hold down the fort at home than head out to the great unknown. I'm not that adventurous or courageous. I'll stick with what I know.

We watched the big military transport starting its engines on the runway. We waited for the bus to pull up to load our men and women. As the bus appeared, dozens of family members strolled out the aircraft.
Oh. No. Not another goodbye. Maybe the kids won't see. Maybe they won't notice.
Hey, Kids, look up at that formation of birds flying through the sky. Too late. They saw.

"Mom--we gotta go on to the flight line. All those other families are out there. We gotta go see Daddy."
"Run, Mom! Run, Mom!" (I am running by the way, Kids. This is my run!)
"We gotta meet the bus before they load passengers. We can't miss this last goodbye."
Goodbye Number Two begins.

This was classic military goodbye. Family members lining the path to the airplane. Last minute hugs...last minute kisses...last minute words...each person that walks by gets a handshake and a pat on the shoulder. I loved every single one of those airmen and women at that moment.

My husband was last to board the plane. Mostly because untangling from our hugs takes him ten minutes. I made sure I got the last kiss.
He was mine first, Kids. I get the last kiss.
Walking towards the plane, he keeps glancing back at us.
The last handshakes are from the important people on base. The commanders. The leaders. They stand proud wishing their people well.
Secretly they are probably wishing they were going along on the mission.

Our family knows to wait until he turns away for the last time. We'll watch him until we can't watch him any longer. I don't want him turning around for one last look to find that his family has already turned away.
One last look and smile as he boards. We watch him disappear into the windowless plane.
Exhale. I think I've been holding my breath for three hours.
I bend down to pick up Noah as the two older boys watch the door close.

"Mom--did you see? Did you see? Daddy looked out the door one more time and waved. We just saw him wave."
You have got to be kidding. Now I really could cry. I thought I had watched long enough. I wanted to see that wave.
I guess it has to be enough that my boys saw the wave. I had no tears up until this point. Now I want to cry.
Once the plane started taxiing down the runway, I gave up hope that the door would open one more time for me to see that wave.
I learn something new every time.
Next time, I'll know to watch until the plane actually starts to taxi.

I've never asked my husband what happens inside the plane once the door shuts. Is there sadness? Is there joyful whoops and hollers? Is there relief?
I'm betting they feel relief.
The dreaded goodbyes are done.
The mission now begins.
The training becomes reality and their readiness and skill tested.
I bet adrenalin flows on that plane.

As the plane takes off, I find that I'm sharing this life experience with a bunch of people that I don't know. Standing on the flight line, we're all on the same team.
All longing to get this thing started, yet not really wanting to say goodbye.

We're ready.
Sometime in the last days before he left, we made the transition.
The transition that allows him to go off and do his job.
He can leave knowing that we need him, we want him, we love him.
But we're going to be okay for a while without him.
I'll do what needs to be done at home, so he can do what needs to be done over "there."

The next time we'll be standing on that flight line it will be to welcome him home.
I can't wait for that day.
Until then, we press on.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Packing Bags

The bag packing is unavoidable.
Camouflage stuff has decorated our bedroom for the past several weeks.
Strange, strange gear overflows from these bags.
He asked me last night if the kids had been playing with his new leatherman.
I didn't even know he had a knife in his bag. No wonder Noah's been spending a lot of time in my closet. He's been playing with all daddy's "toys."

Normally laid back and fun-loving, it's generally easy to get my husband in a good mood.
I just turn on some charm--crack a few jokes--and VOILA! He's over the "tude."
Apparently that charm does not work on deployment stress.

I thought I'd help him pack.
You know, bonding.

I picked up an over-sized ziploc bag that was filled with tiny rolls of his underwear.
Certainly worthy of a joke.
"I like the way you have these pairs of underwear rolled up in tiny, neat rolls. I hope you can get them unrolled once you get there."
Not funny. He didn't even raise his eyes.

Just to add insult, he asks me to make sure all the air is out of the underwear ziploc bag so it will lay flat. I work twenty minutes on this task. I hand him the perfectly flat bag of underwear.

He sighs. "There's still some air."
Um, okaay.
He then spends another five minutes trying to get out this imaginary puff of air that he thinks is still in the bag. "Got it," he says. (Is he serious? I think he is.)
Then he proceeds to throw a big pile (unfolded) of gym shorts on top of the air-free bag of underwear.
"Good thing you got that small breath of air out of that bag or your big, WAD of shorts would never have fit." Not even a glance. Still not funny.

Weird, weird things emerge as he weighs what to take and what not to take.
A Darth Vader mask.
How can you not do the slow breathing in and out simulating classic Darth Vader?
I thought it fit the moment. Bad read.
"This is a gas mask, Michelle."

Then I catch him trying on a pair of goggles---camouflage goggles.
I'm from Colorado. This is easy. He's clearly going to have a day off in Afghanistan to ski. I know ski goggles when I see them.
Wrong again.
"These are for the sandstorms."
How was I supposed to know that?

I called his G-suit a harness.
I handed him his harness when he needed his G-suit.
They are the same color. Easy mistake.
Aside from the fact they don't look anything alike. It was time for the G-suit/harness lesson.
Don't you want to know the difference?
The G-suit helps squeeze their legs to keep blood flowing to their heads so they don't pass out when pulling G's. Yes, please take the G-suit.
The harness. The beautiful harness. I forgot how important the harness really is.
It straps him into the airplane. In the event of ejection, the harness ensures you eject with a paracute on. Pretty crucial if survival is your goal. Definitely, more important than anything else he's packing. Take two harnesses if possible.

The final, final blow to my packing efforts came when he had me open a pack of government issued lip balm.
This was going to be a sweet and tender moment.
I rubbed my lips on the lip balm and said, "Now, everytime you use this lip balm, you can envision I'm giving you a kiss." So lame. Surely worthy of a smile.
I didn't get a smile, but he did look up and raise his eyebrows. I think I saw a hint of my husband somewhere in that eyebrow raising.

Really, he's sort of already deployed. Already over "there" mentally. It would make sense that he would need to leave mentally before he leaves physically.

How else could he get on the plane and watch his family waving goodbye? How could he do that unless he was already sort of gone?

Let's get this thing started.
Go! Go, so I can get my husband back.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Teenager

I can't really decide if I'm enjoying having a teenager.

It's a little fragile. Like I'm enjoying him now, enjoying his budding sense of independence and humor, but I'm sort of on guard. I know this teenage thing may not to be easy. I'm waiting for it...

Leave it to my teenager to display his heart.

On the couch, we all lounged. The five kids and Mom. Typical homeschool morning. All of us loving each other, listening when the other spoke, dressed and ready to tackle the day. Whatever.

Okay, so there we sit. The prodigal son is next in our reading through the book of Luke. I know this one by heart. I have much wisdom to share. I hope they're ready. They're going to get an earful today. I'm irritated that they aren't fully embracing my introduction to the story.

Carefully, I paint the picture. The bold disrespect of the youngest son as he asked his father for his portion of the inheritance. The oldest son, by tradition and law, received double portion of the estate. The younger son received the rest. Most of the estate would have been in land, livestock, agriculture---things difficult to liquidate. The gravity of this request. The father would have to sell assets to give his younger son his inheritance. The father technically wished dead by his youngest son. The heartbreak. Both father and younger son viewed dead by the other.

Then the walk through the sinful life. Exciting at first. Always empty in the end. The height from which the prodigal fell. From wealth to envying the pigs. Squandering it all---left with nothing but his longing for his father's house.

I feel like music should begin playing at this point in the story.

Next, comes the big turn around. The son slowly begins the walk toward home. The long walk home. Surely his father would let him work for him. He rehearses his apology. Can you imagine how much time he had to think? His sorrow was probably overwhelming. He expects nothing. He's weary. He's alone. He's broken.

I pause. Yes, I have their attention.

The father sees the son. The running of the father to the son. Before the son can even apologize, the reunion of the father and son. The father forgives before the son can even finish his speech.

"Party!" The younger son gets a full-blown party. He's wasted everything on "fun" and his father is throwing him a party. Can you blame the older son for being mad?

Now, I share with my children the anger of the older son. Standing outside the party, he refuses to participate. I spend a lot of time describing the heart of the older son. I understand this guy. I've been him. Obedient on the outside, living with the pigs on the inside.

I end with Timothy Keller's observation that at the end of the parable, the younger son is the only one who was restored to the father. The story ends with the older son still outside. The son who seemingly wandered the farthest is the one welcomed home. The prodigal restored. The older son left outside. He never strayed from home physically, but his heart remained far away. He wanted the Father's things and not the Father himself.

I let the story sink in. Thanks to Timothy Keller's book Prodigal God I'm pretty sure I've nailed this lesson with my children.

No one says a word.

My teenager--my oldest son--is clearly moved.

He starts to speak--quietly, humbly, gently---


Wait for it, I thought. Let him speak. Wait for it.

"So is that the way it still works?" he says, obviously in deep thought.

"What works?" I answer. He's obviously going to speak wisdom.

"Does the oldest son still get double portion of the inheritance?"

He gives me a crooked smile and his eyes twinkle mischievously.

Poof. Moment shattered. I obviously read the atmosphere wrong.

Too bad, Kid. We're spending your inheritance.

I love that boy...even if he is a teenager.


He doesn't know this, but I'm memorizing my husband.

Memorizing his smile.
Memorizing his face.
Memorizing his voice.
Studying his hands.
Watching his walk.
Soaking in his hugs.
Saving his voice mails.
Capturing his laugh.
Appreciating his calming presence.
Listening to his wisdom.
Memorizing the way he fathers.

He doesn't think I've noticed.
He's memorizing us too.

Enjoy the Week!

Last night, I loved the Air Force. Loved being a military wife. Loved pilots. Loved America.
What a cool experience to sit with hundreds of the nation's top military performers.
Last night, we were ready to make the sacrifice.

Today, not so cool.
Not ready.
We're down to a week. One week.
I always dread the dread that I feel the week leading up to a deployment.
The week before is worse than the actual leaving.
His list says it all:

Update wills.
Notification update.
Gather insurance/investment papers. Put in one envelope.
Pillowcases with kids pictures.
Pack bags.
Fix downstairs shower.
Have Christmas.
Write notes to kids.
Single dates with each child.
Take Michelle out for coffee.
Ice Skate at Crown Center as a family.
Call parents and grandma.
Learn how to Skype.
Take anti-malaria medicine.

Don't forget to enjoy the week.

Yeah, right.
One thing I've never fully learned as a military wife is how to enjoy the week they are leaving.
I have no idea how to do that.

I could use a little wisdom here, Lord!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Do Overs

There's several things in my life I'd like to do over.
Sometimes I just long to do certain things over again...and do them differently.

I'd like to have one more opportunity for conversation with a young woman who was sharing some decisions she was making for her life. She was doomed for heartbreak...baring her soul to a stranger, me. I listened. My silence, I'm afraid, affirmed her path...affirmed her sinfulness. I'd like a "do over." I wish I would have lovingly shared God's truth. I really, really want to do over that conversation with her. I can't even remember her name.

I'd like a "do over" with a friend from high school. I would have been faithful to my friend. I wish our paths had stayed crossed. It was my fault. I wish I could do that over.

I'd like to "do over" my dating. I'd date less.
I'd like to "do over" my first years of being a parent. I'd stay home more.

Mostly though my "do overs" involve a longing over the times that I didn't fully, unabashedly run the race marked out for me. When I failed to fully embrace whatever it is that God had me in at the moment. A longing to return to situations and trust the Lord more. I'm saddened at the times I didn't fully live in the moment. Some stages I remember just wishing they would be over.
I'd like to go back and really live through them.
To really learn the lessons.
I see God when I look in the rear view mirror.
I regret not seeing Him at the time.

Truly, many days I go to bed wishing I could do the day over...better.

What do you do with the the desire for a "do over"? What do you do with regrets? Surely everyone has some. Surely everyone has something they wish they could do again...and do differently. Is anyone perfectly thrilled with the way they've lived life?

I woke up yesterday morning in Vegas longing for a "do over."
My stomach ached for a "do over."
We're Vegas...witnessing a USAF Weapons School graduation.
A patch night.
It's a big deal. Six months of intense training for some of the top pilots in the Air Force.
They have left their families for six months, been broken down by their instructors, and finally built back up to be even better pilots, better leaders.
They get a simple patch for this training.
One patch.
It means nothing to anyone outside the military.
Everyone in the military knows what it means though.
It means you actually graduated from Weapons School.
It means you're pretty good at what you do.
There's lots of celebrating. Lots of parties. The honor is just as much for the families as it is for the pilot. The families sacrificed. This is their time to also enjoy the honor. They proudly stand beside their pilot knowing they played a crucial role in their success.
I'm watching this all happen for another young man in our squadron.
He's so relieved. His family so proud of him.
I want a "do over."

I'd like to "do over" my husband's graduation from Weapons School.
Eight years ago we were here celebrating this same accomplishment.
We sacrificed six months for this patch. We actually sacrificed much more than the time.
The families who go through this know that's true. The sacrifice is much greater than six months. The patch is costly to the family.
It's the promise of a different lifestyle, a faster pace, and a greater responsibility.
We stood at graduation side by side, yet a million miles apart.
We stood on the brink of complete destruction.
We barely spoke. We barely celebrated. We barely looked at each other.
The weekend was merely the tip of our regretful decisions.
I'd like to do that weekend differently.
Goodness I'd like to do the whole six months over.

As I wrestled yesterday morning with all these waves of regrets about our own personal experience, I begged God "What do I do with this? What do I do with all these emotions right now?"

A little whisper.
Do it over.
Wait. What?
Do it over.

That simple answer for me. God is so good.
He brought me back to Vegas for a "do over."
It's not my husband's graduation. It's not our patch night.
But I get a "do over." I am getting to do Weapons School graduation with my husband all over again. And I'm doing it differently.

Sometimes we do get "do overs." Sometimes we don't.
Lamentations 3:23 "His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."

I often feel a great longing over the daily issues that I miss. For instance, not fully listening to my son sharing details about a video game. Not reading my daughter a book that she really wants me to read. I'm reminded that God's mercies are new every morning.
Every day is a "do over."
Some things I really can do over.
I can listen to my son today when he tells me about the video game.
I can read the book to my daughter today that I was "too busy" to read yesterday.
Today, I can fully run the race marked out for me.

Tonight, I can go to Weapons School graduation and this time I'm going to be proud of my husband.
God is so good.
I don't deserve this "do over."
God is just that good.

So what about the things that we can't do over?
I found comfort in the very same verse that offered me today's joy of the "do over."

Lamentations 3: 19-24
"I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself. 'The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.'"

As we remember, we don't need to be consumed by our affliction and our wandering.
Our downcast souls that struggle with regrets need to find joy in this verse,
"His compassions never fail. They are new every morning!"

And sometimes we get a "do over."
I can't tell you how thankful I am for this gift.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Rest for My Soul

Psalm 62:1-2 "My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken."

My soul finds rest in God alone.
Maybe that's why I'm shaken. My soul is resting on something not promised to give me rest.

Often I find my soul searching for a place to land. A safe place to rest. Whatever I'm resting on, might give me relief for a while, deluding me into believing that somehow I'm secure. Yet, God graciously shakes and reminds me that only He can provide true rest. True security for my soul.

Where am I resting, Lord? Why am I shaken?

I've tried resting on my husband. That works for a while. A short while.
As much as my husband meets many of my needs, he just wasn't created for me. Just to serve me. Just to make my life easier. Just to worship me. Bummer. Too much resting on my husband leaves both of us weary and empty. Plus, he's leaving in a couple weeks. No resting on him once he's gone. And even if he wasn't leaving, I have no promise that he will be given to me tomorrow. Resting on him will always disappoint.

My soul keeps searching.

My parents. Stable, loving, and secure. I can lean into them and rest. Yet, all around me I find friends faced with the reality that their parents are mortal. They will not live forever. Resting on their support is temporary. It will provide no true longlasting relief to my soul.

The search continues.

Healthy, happy children. Thank you, Jesus. Not a promise. Not a guarantee. Leaning on the blessing of my healthy, loving children is unsustainable. Even as I lean into that one a bit, I find my soul resisting. It knows that there's no promise of tomorrow. I'd love to find a Bible verse that promised me tomorrow with my children, but it's not there. These little ones aren't meant to bear the weight of my soul.

What else? Where else can I rest?

Financial security. There's a job. There's a paycheck. Our needs are met. We have a home, food, clothing. I can't have everything I want, but I can have some things I want. Surely I can rest on this security. Yet, I watch our investments fall and the cost of living rise and recognize that this "pseudo" security is such a facade. It will pass away. It could be taken at any minute.

No wonder my soul's searching. If these "good" things cannot sustain, where can I rest?
Where is there rest for the person who can't cling to any of these other things?

Psalm 63:8 "My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me."
Psalm 62:1 "My soul finds rest in God alone."

I love the vision of my soul clinging to the Lord.

Sometimes you just have to climb up in His lap and cling to Him.
The true giver of peace. The Only One who is capable of soothing our souls.
Hide in the shadow of His wings and rest in the promise that when all else fades, fails, disappoints, and deploys that He is our fortress that WILL NEVER BE SHAKEN.

What would it feel like if I truly believed that I was resting in a fortress that would never be shaken?
My soul would probably find rest.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Always there

They're there.
Listening for that one moment of silence.

And then they pounce. They puncture the silence with their own untold stories. Their conversations that have yet to be heard.

Heaven help us if there is a second of silence in this house.

Chatter. Constant buzzing. Continual hum of a family. I love it. I wouldn't trade it.
But today, I want just a second. Just a moment of silence.

I sneak away. No one seems to notice.
The bathroom.
I don't even have to go, but I just need to hear "nothing" for a minute.
Quietly, I close the door.
Only a tiny clicking of the latch.
I take a deep breath. One deep breath.

I think I made it.
I listen. It's grown quiet out there. Too quiet.
They're coming.
Someone's coming.

A small knock on the door.
I sort of want to cry.
"Mom," says a sweet little voice.
"Mom, will you listen to my Awanas verses?" she asks.

Nope, not going to listen to your Awanas verses. (Don't worry--I just thought it--really strongly!)
Deep, deep sigh.

"Give me a second and I'll listen to your verses."

"Oh, it's okay," she says, "Take your time. I'll just sit out here and tell you my verses through the door."

And there went my one second of silence.
Verses through the bathroom door.
I guess they'll be a time for quiet later.

Lord, help me to love to listen to my children.
Especially when they are telling me your Word.
But, teach me to teach them how to be silent.
There's a time for that too.
We just don't do that quiet thing well in our family.

Monday, November 7, 2011


A friend, a little further along in life, emailed me the following thoughts on marriage. She has older children, has been married much longer than me, and has great wisdom (hard earned!) regarding both. I thought I'd share her thoughts. I've been pondering them for the last couple days.

Here's what she said:

"Can I sound like an old lady for a second? It seems clearer and clearer to me that how we really live--deep inside--becomes more outwardly evident the older we get."

"With men, they seem to age in two pretty distinct ways: either they become more and more mellow, loving, and gentle---the ones you see trailing their wives at Wal-Mart, patiently acting like they care which brand of sour cream in on sale---or they truly do turn into the proverbial grumpy old men, and their ability to control or hide their grumpiness wears thinner and thinner with the passage of time."

"What strikes me most about the aging process in women, is how the amount they are loved and cherished shows up more and more in their countenances, their attitudes, and their actions. Think of the women you've known who are beautiful as old women. Aren't they always beloved of their husbands? It's almost like the glow of a happily pregnant woman. (Is that one of the characteristics God built into women? That we are light-bearing creatures, able to give off light and warmth to those around us when we ourselves are warm and living in the light of love?) A woman who ages knowing how much she is loved does so with a timeless beauty which emanates from within her."

She ended with this: "So my question is---Is it possible for a married woman, who is not cherished that way, to age gracefully just because she is cherished and loved by her Lord that way? Should be, right?"

Don't you hear the plea in that question? The longing to know that even though on this earth, in this life, she's not felt beloved of her husband, that her Heavenly Groom cherishes her...and that's enough. It's enough to be the bride of Christ. It's enough to be the beloved of her Father in heaven. The love of her Lord is enough to let her age with grow older with joy...and to radiate love to those around. It's enough. It's more than enough.

We aren't promised love by another person. God's love is unconditional. He's faithful. He's true. The single mom raising three kids with no man to help her? Her Lord is her only groom. The divorced woman living a lonely life and struggling to provide? Her God is her only love. The married woman in a loveless home? Her God cherishes her. God is enough.

Isn't that the plea of all of our hearts? Don't all of us women ache to be loved? To be someone's beloved? Tell us, Lord, that even if we're not fully cherished by someone in this life, that you cherish us. Tell us, Lord, that even if we're not loved in our marriages as Christ loved the church, that you love us that way. Tell us, Lord, that we are your beloved.

I suspect that my dear friend, who lets the Lord sing over her, will grow old gracefully. That the love her Heavenly Father pours over her will overflow to those around her. I suspect she's going to radiate timeless beauty because she is treasured by the King. I'm looking forward to watching.

You first, Dear Friend. Show us how it's done.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Foolish Thoughts as Companions

I'm reading a book on Spiritual Disciplines. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney.

It seems as though I'm learning the hard way that many areas of my life need discipline.
For one, the discipline of meditating on scripture. Not just reading scripture, but truly meditating on God's Word.

It's no coincidence that in the midst of my evaluation of my own spiritual discipline, my mind would come under attack. My mind. It's always been a source of a great war in my spiritual life. The Lord warns of our thoughts, so perhaps I'm not alone. Perhaps it's a war zone for everyone. I analyze. I doubt. I remember sins. I harbor grudges. I daydream. I re-live the past. I judge. I write my own gospels.

If I practiced the discipline of meditating on scripture, I'd win more of these battles.
I'm mentally lazy. Dangerous road to walk.
Sin finds a vast playground in the mind.

Take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)
Take every thought---hold it up against God's word---discard that which is sinful---think on the things of Him.

That is so simple.
If you have no thoughts.

I should have practiced this verse yesterday morning. I had just been thinking on the practice of capturing my thoughts and making them obedient to Christ. I'm not sure why I must fail at all of these principles before I truly believe they work. Just once, I'd like to do it right the first time.

My sinful mind failed the moment I opened my eyes.
Sometime between 5:30 and 6:00 a.m., as I was wrestling with my alarm clock, someone from my past walked through my mind. Five more minutes of sleep. Just five more minutes. She walked through my mind during those minutes. In hindsight, I should have just got out of bed.

I woke up with just a thought. One thought. This thought threatened to leave. I threatened to take the thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.

I reconsidered. Come back little thought. Too many years have passed for me to think of this person daily. If I let her go this time, I might forget to think on her again. I might forget some of those things that I want to remember. I better talk just for a minute. I'm strong enough. Enough time as passed. I've grown so much since then.

So I invited her to stay. In fact, I spent the morning with her. She reigned in my mind. We talked, we argued, we pleaded our causes to each other, we re-lived the past. I told my side of the story. She told hers. I'm pretty sure I'm still right. I puffed up a bit with pride. I'm still right.

I should have taken those thoughts captive.

God pulled me out of this dialogue in my mind sometime around lunchtime.

So I've been wondering since then, who really was the fool yesterday morning?
The tugging of the Holy Spirit reminds me that I chose the wrong way to think on such things.
I focused on the ugliness of the past. I forgot God's faithfulness.
I thought on the failures. I forgot how God how been glorified.

I couldn't help the first thought.
By His grace, I could have taken the next thoughts captive.
I could have praised Him immediately.
I could have thanked Him for His faithfulness.
I could have remembered His great love all morning.
I'd like to have that morning back.

An unguarded mind gives birth to sin.
My companions this morning were my foolish thoughts.
What a waste of a morning.

My mind was exhausted after I let the conversation go, I'd been impatient with my children, and I'd solved nothing. The past was still the past. No amount of talking had changed anything. There was still no resolution. There can be no pretty bow on a package of sin. Only the blood of Jesus washes that away. I should have spent the morning at the foot of the cross. My anxious thoughts would have grown strangely dim in the light of Him.

A companion of fools comes to ruin. (Proverbs 13:20)
Our thoughts become our companions.
We are careful to warn our children about their choice of friends.
Our thoughts walk with us too.
They speak to us.
They can build us up in the Lord.
They can also tear us down.
They can be wise.
They can be foolish.

Today...I'm going to take that thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.

Come back, Yesterday Morning, I'd like to do you differently.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Ruined Life

Big tears ran down her cheeks.
"You've ruined my life!"

I suppose the first time hurts the most.
I've never heard that statement before.
I thought they were a little young to blame me for everything they hate about themselves.
I thought I had a little more time to save for their therapy.

We were in the middle of a reading lesson. The same lesson we've been working on for two weeks. I thought I was being patient.

I did not see it coming.
She's four. Four. I thought she still adored me.
Who could have guessed?

We were reading the extent of ten words on the page. We'd been sounding them out for twenty minutes. She knew not one. Not one. I might have gone into that squeaky voice just for a second. THE WORD IS "THAT." It was "THAT" five seconds ago when we sounded it out the first time. The letters haven't changed. It's still "that"!

And then the dreaded crocodile tears...followed by a little whimpering...the chin quiver...
"I actually knew that word, Mom. YOU'VE RUINED MY LIFE. I could have sounded that out on my own."

How was I to know that all-of-the-sudden---in the midst of the phonetic struggle---that she had figured out that word.

I'm thinking about NOT teaching her to read.
That ought to ruin her life, don't you think?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Consider This...

My friend, Heather, sent me a quote this morning from the book, The Darkness and the Glory, by Greg Harris.

Just in case we think we are above any sin...

Anyone doubting the extent of Satan's power to tempt should consider this: holy angels in God's holy presence, surrounded by the majesty and the glory of the Godhead and their dwelling place, still were deceived by empty promises and enticements from the evil one.

She reminded me that "One third of the angels fell with Satan." ONE THIRD OF THE ANGELS FELL WITH SATAN. They were surrounded by God's holiness and they were still deceived. We are not "safe from temptation."

Our ability to be tempted and to sin should drive us to the foot of the cross in humility.

But by God's grace, go I...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Any Sin?

Any believer is capable of ANY sin.
If you don't believe that, you don't know the human heart.
True believers repent.
False believers stay in their sin.
(Pastor Bret Capranica, Oct. 2, 2011)

Do you believe you are capable of any sin?
Do I believe I'm capable of any sin?
Any sin? Murder? No way.
Adultery? Not happening.
Violence? Nope, not me.
I couldn't do that. I wouldn't do that. Never.

I know I can steal, cheat, and lie.
I know I can dishonor my parents.
I know I can covet what someone else has.
I know I have idols.
I'll admit the above.
Not guilty.

And then God gently rebukes...
Have you hated?
I have hated with every ounce of energy in my body.
Have your mind and heart always belonged solely to your husband? comment.

It's possible to have never taken a human life, yet murdered a thousand times in hate.
It's possible to be a virgin with the heart of a harlot.
"If any of you is without sin, cast the first stone." (John 8:7)
I'd have to drop my stone every time.

God knows my heart.
I'm guilty of great sin.
I'm capable of any sin.

God in His graciousness shows us the secret darkness bound up in our hearts.
It's all there. The potential for every sin.
It's waiting for opportunity, weakness, and desire to coincide.
It's waiting for the chance to rear its ugly head to devour.
I've seen it in my life.
I've seen it in the lives of others.
I'll never say "I'll never do that" because I've done some of the things that I knew I'd never do.
I'm the wretch the song is talking about. He "saved a wretch like me."
God knew our need for a Savior.
And He sent One for us before we asked.
He sent His Son to save us from the sins we "knew" we'd never commit.
He saved us before we wanted to be saved.

Our ability to sin is not a barometer by which to judge our salvation.
Believers can fall. True believers can fall.
But...true believers repent. True believers repent.
That's the difference.
Repentance is the difference between life and death. Eternally.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I Can't Find It!

If I hear the words "I CAN'T FIND IT!" one more time today, I might throw a temper tantrum.

I've lost my brain, Children, and I don't see any of you helping me find it.

No, I won't help you look for your paper, your pencil, your math book, your Polly Pocket shoe, your toothbrush, your socks, your cup of milk, your favorite stuffed animal, your football, your chess piece, etc., etc.

Until you return to me the parts of my brain that you've taken, Precious Little Ones, I'm incapable of helping you find anything.

I clearly need a Diet Coke....
Sometimes you just have to vent....

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Salvation's Not Just A Prayer

I'm a skeptic. Far too analytical and doubting to truly honor the Lord much of the time. I'm more Thomas-like than I wish. I sympathize with Thomas when I read in John 20 him say, "Unless I see...I will not believe." God's working through my doubts though. He's not leaving me alone to struggle. I love that about the Lord. He meets us right where we are and dares to change us from the inside out.

That weakness said, I am extremely skeptical when I hear ministries boast of the number of people saved through their ministries each week. "Thousands saved every weekend." "We had 453.5 people come forward and accept Christ." Really? Really? It sort of makes me mad.

Salvation's not just a prayer. We know that, right? Right?
You should be a different person today than you were on the day you repeated the sinner's prayer. God's saving power should change us. If you aren't different, then you just repeated words. You cannot meet the Almighty God, accept His gift of forgiveness and salvation, and walk away unchanged. It's impossible.

So, does our presentation of the gospel lead people to merely accept Christ as a precaution so they don't go to hell? Confessing our sins and believing in Christ is the beginning of salvation...and yes, we are secure in Christ once we accept Christ as our Savior. The evidence of our salvation comes afterward. We are saved ONCE. But as Paul says in Philippians 2:12 we spend our lifetime working out our salvation. We say the prayer...and then God's saving power works to change us.

I wonder how many people have repeated the sinner's prayer thinking they've secured their salvation? How many think the prayer alone is the means to getting into heaven? Surely they know that the repetition of some words do not save. That's clear, right?

If you are are changed. It's good to ask ourselves, AM I CHANGED? Am I a new creation?

If you are saved...the Holy Spirit will be working in your life. Does the Holy Spirit whisper to you? Does the Holy Spirit guide you and comfort you and discipline you?

If you are cannot just sit in your sin. Can you struggle with sin? ABSOLUTELY. Until we take our last breath, we will wrestle with our flesh. But evidence of our salvation comes even through the demonstrates that the power within us is in conflict with our fleshly desires. If you don't struggle with sin or even recognize your sin...ask God to have mercy on you and show you your sin. Only through seeing our sin will we recognize our need for a Savior.

So, when I hear of masses of people getting saved at conferences or church services, I always think, "Show me where these people are a year from now and then tell me how many of them are saved."

Salvation changes people.

Whatever It Takes

I was greatly encouraged by someone I deeply love this week.

Don't you love when the Lord working in someone's life motivates you to re-examine your own self?

We were having a discussion on making changes in life. Getting out of ruts. Growing spiritually. Discontentment in the status quo. We were talking about how sometimes drastic changes are necessary in order for God to work...not always...God can work through anything...but sometimes God leads us to make big changes. Sometimes you know it's God working when you are led down a path that you wouldn't choose in your own flesh.

Here's what challenged me. He said, "I'm willing now. Whatever it takes, Lord, to grow us, we're willing."


I thought many times this week, could I say that? Could I say to the Lord, "Whatever it takes...I'm willing."

Could I say, "Whatever is keeping me from you, Lord, help me change it. I want you more. I want you more than anything else in my life."

Hmmm...I'm challenged.

Here's the other wisdom I gained from this same conversation. We were talking about the exciting, "cool" life they live. Nothing necessarily sinful about the life, just faster paced. Here's the comment, "Maybe we're discontent in the 'cool.'" Discontent in the "cool"? I love it.

Wow. That has to be from God. To recognize discontentment in the midst of great abundance is straight from the Holy Spirit. Most of the time, we continually follow the lust for "more" and "more" never recognizing that it will never fill the void. If we only had this...if we only did that...if we only were able to... Even things that seem "exciting" on the outside promise to leave us empty if the pursuit is not for God Himself. That's a promise.

I love being challenged by those I love...even when they don't intend to challenge me.
I love watching the Lord stir lives.

Whatever it takes, Lord, whatever it takes.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Porta-Potty Chase

It's hard to portray competence when you're chasing your toddler around a porta-potty.

It started with a simple, "I have to go potty."
Deep sigh.
"Honey, there's only porta-potties out here on the football field, can't you hold it?"
"No, I think I'm going to poop my pants."

Deeper sigh...maybe with a little groan thrown in there.

It took 10 minutes to make our way to the row of porta-potties. They weren't too gross...the three potties lined up on the field. We picked the cleanest one.
"I'll wait out here with holler when you are done."

"MOOOOOOM...I need you to wipe me."

I survey the situation...Noah's playing in the parking lots strangers walking near. I decide to go in without him. Surely he's fine for a minute by himself.

I was mistaken.
The wiping took a little longer than expected.

I emerge from the porta-potty to find him running around the porta-potties.
Second mistake...I began to chase him...he thought it was a game...and ran faster.

No...No...No Noah...not between the potties...
And there he went...wedging his little body between two of the potties. His little cheeks rubbing the sides as he furrowed deeper and deeper out of reach.

I had to text for back-up. I texted my sister-in-law, "Noah's wedged between two porta-potties at football practice."

She knows me too well. She texted back, "Tell Savannah to watch him better."

Ha. Ha. Ha. I text, "She was supposed to be watching him, BUT she was sitting on the pot in the porta-potty. I thought he was safer outside. I was wrong."

I'm really trying to not make a scene. How far can he wedge himself before I should get desperate? Now my cheeks are pushed up against the outhouse as I try unsuccessfully to reach him. That stinker. He just giggles and giggles. I sneak around the back. I grabbed his little arm and drag him out.

Game Over.

One second. I took my eyes off him for a second (okay maybe 2 minutes) to wipe little buns and this is how he handles his freedom. Totally untrustworthy.

I can't make eye contact as I walk back to football practice.
I'm not going back to that football practice for a while...and I'm definitely wearing a hat and sunglasses next time.

And that was a good day of parenting...

Could you not keep watch?

"Could you not keep watch with me for one hour?"

The disciples fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane. They were supposed to be waiting for Jesus. Supposed to be keeping watch for Jesus. Their spirits were willing, their bodies weak.

As Jesus groaned in anticipation, prayed for the cup to pass, and submitted to the Father's Will, the disciples closed their eyes and slept.

I recently read a story Kay Arthur wrote about this very verse. She was tired and not feeling well on a teaching trip to Israel. In response to an acquaintance, she wanted to respond in her flesh. She struggled to not respond in her sinful nature. God intervened and amazingly she was able to witness in the face of this temptation to sin. As she later stood in the Garden of Gethsemane and read these verses, she deeply understood the truth of Jesus' words. "Could you not keep watch for one hour?" Is it so hard to keep watch for one hour?

Matthew 26:40-41 "So you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak."

I got on my treadmill yesterday afternoon for a whole whopping twenty minutes. I was tired...a little frustrated. I stared at the Bible memory cards on my treadmill and decided I'd rather let my thoughts wander. I'd rather let my mind go into that closet in my head where I hold memories, the past, blessings, curses, fears, temptations, idols. I go there when I'm tired, insecure, bored, anxious, sick, angry...Does everyone have one of those closets in their mind or it just me?

I sorted through the closet and came upon a past event where I still harbored some "what if's?". Yes, this one. I'll choose to think on this one while I run. I thought through the past and people involved. Got myself worked up a bit (it did help energize my running!). What if this situation had gone differently? What if? What if? What if? They weren't healthy "what if's" that spur you on to make changes. They were those "what if's" that leave you saddled and burdened by the past.

I hopped off the treadmill after 20 minutes feeling physically rejuvenated, mentally drained, and spiritually lacking.

I think God might have whispered to me. Could you not keep watch with me for an hour? In this case, twenty minutes. Could you not keep watch with me for 20 minutes?

The spirit is willing, but our bodies are so ridiculously weak.

I think I understand that verse a tiny bit better. Or I understand the disciples a little better. This life is but a breath when we consider eternity. Can we not keep watch until He returns? Can we not guard our thoughts, our hearts, our bodies while we wait for Him?

The next time I'm tired, hungry, and frustrated...the next time my mind wants to hide a while in its secret places, I'm praying God whispers that question to me...Can you not keep watch with me for an hour?

Monday, September 12, 2011

No Greater Joy

A group of moms are praying this week for the salvation of our children. We are also praying that the saving work of Jesus would be evident in those already saved.

In the midst of the hopes and prayers I have for my children, I often get distracted by all the "other" good things I want them to "be." I want them to be gentle. I want them to be humble. I want them to be generous. I want them to be hardworking. I want them to be joyful. I want them to be quick students. I want them to be able to provide someday. I want them to serve. The list goes on and on.

More than any of those "fruits" of the Spirit...more than any success in life...I want them to be saved. I want God to call them. I want God to write their names in the Book of Life. I want God to pursue them and transform them and bring about His work in their life. Go after my kids, Lord! Please, relentlessly pursue my kids! And let it be evident...don't leave me wondering, Lord, if you've called them...if they're living out their faith or living out my faith...let it be evident that they are saved.

All I can do is lay them at the feet of Jesus and pray that He works His work in them.

A year ago I was talking with a group of women about raising children. I said something about understanding 111 John 1:4 better now that I have children. The verse says, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the Truth." My heart's deepest desire is to see my children walking in the truth.

A good friend who has walked a rough road with one of her children wisely added, "You know, I'm not sure you totally understand that verse until you have a child not walking in the truth."

That's probably true. There's no greater joy for a Christian than to see our kids walking in the truth of God. I wonder if the opposite is also true. There's no greater pain for a Christian than to watch a beloved child reject the truth.

Wouldn't you love to never fully understand that heartache?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Lincoln, MO and September 11th

Lincoln, MO. Population: 1089.
Rural Missouri.
A thousand miles from New York City.

The school in Lincoln, MO held an assembly today on their football field. Kindergartners to seniors filled the bleachers.
Air Force personnel from Whiteman AFB were asked to speak to the students about September 11th. Many of the students weren't even alive. The speeches were inspiring. A call to remember.
Just as inspirational is the town of Lincoln.
2976 forks placed on the football field by students. One for every person who died on September 11th.
That's a lot of time putting forks on a field...just to remember.
This little town in Lincoln, MO fighting to not forget.
That should encourage the victims of 9-11.
Lincoln, Missouri will remember...and they will make sure their children remember.

My husband agreed to speak. He was honored to have the opportunity. He could talk of freedom all day long. Here's his speech:

Good morning. I consider it an honor to come here to speak to the future of the United States on the 10th anniversary of September 11, 2001. I spent several days lamenting over what to say, what advice to give. I couldn't come up with any sage words of advice. Instead, I pondered what makes America great. America's greatness comes from you...and from others like you that come together under a common belief: freedom. Thomas Jefferson captured the foundation of American greatness when he penned these words in the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." America united behind these words then and continues to unite behind them today. Our belief in freedom is one of the foundations of America. Our defense of freedom is why we are here today and one of the reasons I am in the military.

A little background---I grew up in small town Georgia, played high school sports including the greatest sport, football. I was blessed to continue to play football at the United States Air Force Academy. Honestly, I went to play football. Most of our football team accepted our Air Force Academy appointment just so we could play football. We were under-sized. Under-talented. Under-appreciated by bigger schools. As we played together through the years, I was able to see a group of young, small football players turn into an outstanding team of brothers, committed to each other, desiring never to let the other down. Winning football games was only part of it. By my senior year, the cadets had a greater perspective. Our commitment to each other went beyond the football field. We knew that together we would be counted on to defend our country, to defend freedom. This perspective had a calming effect on everyone. We could handle adversity better than most teams because football wasn't the end for us. We were going to be a team much longer. We actually were able to defeat more talented teams simply because we were a part of something bigger than just playing football.

Following graduation, I was commissioned as an officer in the Air Force. I eventually became an A-10 pilot in 1998. As a first assignment I was stationed in Germany. Within weeks of moving to Germany came Operation Allied Force. We were sent to protect Kosovo from Serbia. Next, Operation Southern Watch. We flew the no-fly zone in Southern Iraq to protect the Shi'ite Muslims from Saddam Hussein. In Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring freedom, we have been defending America against future attacks, but also defending Iraqi and Afghan people from Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, and those that threaten the potential for freedom in these countries. In every operation, I have been blessed to stand side-by-side better men and women than myself to defend freedom. Have we really defended our freedom in these operations? Debatable. In each and every operation, we were defending other people's freedom---the Shi'ites, the Kosovars, the Iraqi people, the Afghan people.

We don't know what it's like to not be free. You've always been free. I've always been free. Freedom is something Americans often take for granted. Have you ever seen someone who wasn't free? I don't mean someone in poverty. I understand we have poverty in America. I myself came from humble beginnings. But here in America, we do have a choice. We have the potential and the freedom to do something different. Many places in the world, including the countries mentioned earlier, they don't have that freedom. In fact, many of those countries are struggling to grasp freedom and to embrace the chance for freedom provided by the United States and our allies. These people have a look---a look of despair, a look of hopelessness. But these looks are gradually growing more hopeful. You have been a part of that. You have enabled the United States military and other agencies to provide hope to millions of people. You can see that in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Voter turn-out in these countries is astounding...even in the midst of intimidation and death threats. Only one thing motivates these people to risk their lives...the opportunity for freedom.

Back to 9/11. I had just left Germany and arrived at an A-10 training base in Tucson, Arizona when 9/11 occurred. I remember watching the aircraft crash into the towers in New York in shock and in anger. We were under attack and I wanted to defend my country, defend freedom...and I wasn't in any position to do that now. In fact, I would have to wait two more years until 2003. I knew I would have to train people that would be going overseas to defend our country...and that made me angry too. I could only sit and watch. But in watching, I saw the fear and courage of hundreds of Americans in New York and Washington D.C. I saw unassuming people stand tall in the face of danger to save their fellow Americans. People risking lives for those they didn't know. Many were first-responders. Many were not. Many just acted in a way succinctly described by former President George W. Bush when he stated the following after 9/11:

Great tragedy has come to us, and we are meeting it with the best that is in our country, with courage and concern for others because this is America. This is who we are. (George W. Bush)

This is who we are. We do respond with courage and concern for others. We do pay freedoms' price. As President Kennedy said years ago,

The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender, or submission. ( John F. Kennedy)

Your military through the years---consisting of many only slightly older than yourselves---have stood up for America and for Freedom. These people have done amazing things--saving lives, risking their own lives, making decisions at a moment's notice saving civilian lives. These people have paid the price, have sacrificed. Their families have sacrificed. My sacrifice has been minimal. Many Army and Marine troops have been deployed five of the last ten years. Why? Freedom. Freedom and the chance to ensure all American families have the chance to live out the ideals of our Declaration of Independence. No other military in the world has done this or sacrificed so much. Is it our excellent training or superb technology? No, not totally. It's the people. People just like you.

President Ronald Reagan put it this way,

Above all, we must realize that no arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today's world do not have. (Ronald Reagan)

So why is all this important? I won't be wearing a military uniform forever. My days in a uniform are numbered. You are the future of America. You will be the ones to defend freedom in that future. You will have to decide that you will not let your brother or sister down. This applies to everything you do---whether it's a football game tonight, school, or life. Will you meet the challenges of the future with courage? You will be afraid. I tell my own children, you can't have courage without fear. That's one definition of courage: the willingness to something in spite of your fears. So, as we remember the 10th anniversary of 9/11, let's declare we will stand for freedom. We will stand for each other. We still stand for America. Thank you and God bless.

Preston McConnell

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Sept. 11

My husband's giving a speech tomorrow in remembrance of September 11th.
If he had finished the speech, I would write it down now. Instead I'm going to do my own remembering.

Was it really 10 years ago?

We all remember where we were when we heard.
I was in a billeting room on Davis Monthan AFB in Tucson, Arizona. Holding a baby. There was no alert that something was happening on the other side of the country. My mom called, "Turn on the television."
The second plane hit seconds after we turned it on. It would remain on for the next week.
The base immediately locked down.
Shock. Dismay. Devastation. Anticipation.
How did this happen? Are we safe? What does this mean for our country?
Our illusion of safety shattered. What are we going to do?
I remember the unity. For a brief period of time, we were all on the same side. We were all Americans devastated by an attack on our soil. We begged God to save us. For a brief second, we realized we weren't really in control.

I don't know a single person who died on September 11th. I didn't smell the burning fires. I never saw the rubble aside from on television. I didn't wait to hear from a loved one. My memories of September 11th were shaped by the television. The stories I know are the ones highlighted on remembrance videos. There are thousands of stories. I've only heard a handful.

We must feel safe now. The military must be doing their job. We freely question and analyze whether our response was right. That's a sign we feel safe. No one questioned if we would respond in those early days following September 11th. We just questioned, WHEN? When would we go after those who had attacked us? We anticipatingly waited.

September 11th rejuvenated my husband's love for this country. A readiness. A willingness. An eagerness to be used. And I was ready to send him in those early days. Go do something.

The focus of the military mission changed for this generation of least it changed for my husband.
Their missions became personal.
They weren't fighting to protect a foreign people from a foreign enemy on foreign land.
They were fighting to protect Americans.

George Bush stood on the rubble of the Twin Towers and yelled into a bullhorn, "I can hear you! I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you! And the people---the people who knocked down these buildings will hear from all of us soon!"

I remember my husband's focus that day.
When are we going?
Come on. When are we going?
Send us.
A fierce, determined energy.

He would go. Two years later.
He would spend the months and years after 9-11 as an instructor pilot training other pilots to go. He would train others to do the missions that he wanted to do. It was no less an important job, but I know he would rather have gone himself. He got his chance. 2003, 2004, 2007, and an upcoming December 2011 deployment. Just over a year of his life would be spent "there." He would say that's not much compared to most military people today. But it's something.

The mission is still alive. It's debated. It's critiqued. It's questioned.
That's good. That's what we do in a free country.
Are we doing the right thing? What should we have done differently?
Don't forget to be thankful we can question these things now.
We weren't free enough in the days following September 11th to question much.
In our security, we are free to question.

And while we're wondering if we did/are doing the right thing, don't forget...
Soldiers will keep doing their jobs while we sleep in safe beds and contemplate whether we are doing the right thing in this war on terror.
Firefighters will keep walking up the stairs while others contemplate if the towers are going to fall.
Paramedics will keep compressing a lifeless heart while others sit frozen in shock.
Heroic citizens will risk their own lives to save the life of a stranger.
God will still be in charge.
Don't forget what it felt like on that day to truly act as one nation.
Our unity is rare these days. It's sad that it took tragedy to pull us together.

It's good to remember September 11th.
I don't think about it everyday.
Is that a sign of how far we've come or that I've grown numb?
I don't know. It's good to move forward, right?
I've thought about it more lately with an upcoming deployment.
All of us were touched that day.
Don't forget that cost.
Remember September 11th.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Alone with Noah

We got to spend three days alone with our little guy.
Aside from the two days we spent with him in the hospital, that's one of the first times we've truly been alone with him for any extended period of time.
In big families, you steal private moments with your children.
Going to the grocery store with one child becomes an opportunity for one-on-one time.
Grabbing a Diet Coke at Quik Trip is another date.
The five minute walk to the football field counts as private time.
Three days? Three days alone with one child rarely happens.

It made me realize how often I'm in a hurry. Mentally I'm always managing something. My mind is constantly juggling. I'm rarely just living in the moment. I'm always planning the next moment.
Yep, I'll play catch with you. We have ten minutes.
No, we can't make cookies. We're leaving in four minutes.
Quick game of cards. Quick, Guys! It's time for football.

Two things I thought of while I just had Noah.

First. Do I ever play with my kids until they are ready to quit? No. I always call off the fun.
I've never heard them say, "I'm done swinging, Mom. Stop pushing me." I always stop pushing before they are ready.
I've never played catch until they are tired of playing catch. I'm always saying "Okay, 50 more." Always counting down.

For one three day period, I tried. We pushed Noah around the block on a little bike and never once looked at our watch. What did we really need to do anyway? We just enjoyed the walk. It was so refreshing.

I took him to the park and went down the slide with him over and over again. He kept giggling and saying "Gin, Mommy! Gin!" Even though I really wanted to be done sliding, I kept sliding just for him. It really was quite fun.

Second. Have I taught my kids to enjoy the things in life that are not dependent on income? They aren't promised any income when they grow up. Wouldn't it be a great gift to enjoy the things with my children that they will always be able to enjoy regardless of their financial status in life? A sky twinkling with stars. A walk by a gentle stream. A night of reading. A sunrise. A sunset.

We took a walk last night as a family and Josh said, "I haven't seen the stars in a while."
The stars haven't gone anywhere, Josh. We just haven't taken the time to notice.
I'd like to enjoy God's creation more with my kids. You can freely enjoy that anywhere.

Noah got pretty bored without his brothers and sisters, but what a special gift to us. A handful of memories of just him. Sliding down a slide. Riding a little bike. Reaching out just for us. He won't remember. It probably didn't mean that much to him. It was special for us.

The next time we will probably be alone with him will be when he's 15.
I wonder if he'll still want me to push him on the swing.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Toilet Paper

We need toilet paper. Toilet paper and milk. We can do without the milk. We can't do without the toilet paper.

How did our supplies get so low, so fast? Easy. A four year old toilet paper abuser.

Four bathrooms sharing one roll of toilet paper. We are each allowed three squares. Three small squares until I get to the store. We're not going to make it through the day. I'm going to have to make the trip. The dreaded trip to Wal-Mart for only two things.

I despise trips to Wal-Mart for only a couple things. I get tired just thinking about it.

If only....

If only Walmart had a drive-thru. A drive-thru for 10 items or less. You place your order on-line, pay for your items including a small $5 convenience fee, choose your pick-up time, and simply drive-thru and pick up your order.

I think this is genius. I'd like toilet paper, milk, a Snickers (for me), and well...let's just throw in some diet coke to top off the chocolate.

Diapers, infant tylenol, 2 lbs of bananas, and could you pick out a nice gift for a 10 yr. old boy.

Pork loin, KC barbecue sauce, 1 lbs of potatoes, 1 loaf of bread.

Who do I talk to about this? I mean, really. This is the mom's ultimate dream. I actually have spent several minutes fantasizing about this.

The only thing that is ruining my fantasies is this one nagging thought: What would the moms in Africa who walk miles everyday for clean water think of my idea? Do you think they'd sympathize with how hard it is to drag a couple children into the store for milk...for water...for medicine?

Hmmm...I'm going to run to Wal-Mart. I'll fantasize about my idea later.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The State of Our Heart

Our pastor said something that struck a chord with me today.

"What is the trajectory of your behavior suggesting about the state of your heart?"

This afternoon I spent some time thinking about my behavior, my obedience to the Lord, and the way I spend my days.

I had an imaginary discussion with my pastor as I was taking a walk this afternoon.

"Pastor Brett, let me tell you about the way I spend my days."

I imagined him saying to me, "If you tell me how you spend your day, I'll tell you who and what you love."

(I think he would say that...although I shouldn't put it in quotes because it was an imaginary conversation.)

I heard that said about finances many years ago. Tell me where you spend your money and I'll tell you where your heart is.

I'm sure it's also been said in relation to how we spend our time and the things that we pursue.

We can say whatever we want about the status of our hearts. Let's not fool ourselves though with words. Our time, our behavior, and our money are spent on the things that truly reign supreme in our hearts.

David and the Psalms

Proverbs 17:28 "Even a fool is thought wise, if he holds his tongue."

I talk too much. This is why I will never be thought wise. I'm regularly revealing my foolishness with my mouth.

I process through writing. I don't lay in bed at night and ponder. I can't follow my own thoughts. I write to ponder. I write to think through my faith. I write my doubts. I write my questions. I write my prayers. My foolishness is most often revealed to me through my writings. This is why I would never wish to be published. My words are not trustworthy.

I was thinking about David after church today and how I portrayed him in my last post. "Emotionally crazy" and "David" should probably not be in the same sentence. David was emotional. Period. Psalms is an emotional book of the Bible. Period. Every emotion you could possibly have is poured out before the Lord in Psalms. I should have left it at that.

But I'm a fool...and I keep talking...

I can't help but read through the Psalms and feel like I'm taking a secret peek at someone's prayer journal. Psalms is intimate. David's relationship with the Lord screams intimacy.

In David's words:

Psalm 3 "Arise O Lord! Deliver me, O my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked."

Psalm 4 "Answer me when I call you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress."

Psalm 6 "I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears."

Psalm 7 "O Lord my God, I take refuge in you."

Psalm 8 "O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth."

Psalm 13 "How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?"

Psalm 18 "The Lord is my Rock, my fortress, and my deliverer. He is my shield."

Psalm 22 "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?"

I think David and I connected the first time on these two verses. Psalm 30: 6-7 "When I felt secure, I said, 'I will never be shaken.' O Lord, when you favored me, you made my mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face, I was dismayed."

I totally get that. I have journal entries overflowing with trust in the Lord. Times when I felt like I would never be shaken. Yet, one entry later I'm on my bed in dismay over why the Lord has hidden His face from me. Shaken to the core. I'm so thankful David wrote that Psalm.

The Psalms go on and on for 150 Psalms with outpouring of emotion. Praise. Despair. Fear. Hope. Anger. Joy. Every Psalm points out who God is IN SPITE of our emotions. Each Psalm brings us back. Back to the Lord. David constantly reminds us the faithfulness of the Lord in the midst of any trial we could possibly be facing. David's honesty before the Lord leads to a great intimacy. David doesn't pretend to be strong. He desperately clings to the Lord.

David's constantly preaching himself a sermon. Reminding his weary soul of the attributes of the Lord. Perhaps our prayers and praises should look more like David's. The laying down of our emotions and the aligning of them with the truth about who the Lord is.

We are not trustworthy. Our emotions will betray us.

God is always trustworthy. He will never betray us.

We are weak. He is strong.

Read the Psalms. They are refreshing to a weary soul.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Spiritual Schizophrenic

I know I'm saved. I have no doubts Jesus died on the cross for my sins. That I've been bought at a price. That my salvation is secure in the hands of a faithful God. That before I was born, He called me to Himself.

BUT I AM ALL OVER THE PLACE SPIRITUALLY! Is there medication for this?

At the beginning of last week, I was so spiritually encouraged that I think my faith could have moved mountains. I was praising the Lord. Thirsting for His Word. Confident of His loving Hands.

Sometime between Wednesday at midnight and Thursday at noon, I fell off my spiritual mountaintop and have been lacking ever since. I've stared blankly at my Bible. Fallen asleep when I've tried to pray. Felt no nudging by the Holy Spirit. I think I fell off the wagon.

Today in church we were singing Here I am. I think Phillips, Craig, and Dean sing it. Maybe another group sings it too, but it's always been one of my favorites.

I was thinking as I was singing...I wasn't worshipping. My fault. My sin. My mind spoke a disclaimer after every verse we sang.

Here I am to know my mind's wandering, Lord.
Here I am to bow myself since I've been my own idol.
Here I am to say that you're my God...sometimes you are...when I put you in your rightful place in my life.
You're all together are, Lord.
Altogether worthy....why don't I treat you that way?
Altogether wonderful to me...

And then I started to cry. Not because I was repentant or moved. Simply because I was spiritually tired. I couldn't even focus. My son looked at me and said, "Why are you crying, Mom?" I had to be honest. "I'm tired." I wish I could have said to him that I was crying because I was so thankful or so overwhelmed by God's love or so repentant or even that I was sad over an event. I was simply crying because I was just spiritually tired. I think I was crying because I wasn't anything. I was almost apathetic. That's pathetic.

Last week, we sang Blessed Be Your Name and I wanted to run around and shout for joy. I was so moved by the unity we have in Christ. I was so overwhelmed by God's love for me. I almost ran up and gave Dawson a high-five after the song.

A mere week later, my soul is searching for a safe place to land as I'm sitting in the Lord's house. I know the safe place, but my soul was still searching in spite of knowing the truth.

A spiritual schizophrenic. Loving the Lord. Doubting the Lord. Trusting the Lord. Trusting myself. Serving out of love. Serving out of duty. Joyful. Resentful. Praising. Complaining. Generous. Greedy. Mature in Christ. Immature in Christ.

Which one am I? All of those things. I'm all of those things.

I love David. David of the Bible, that is.

(Sidenote: One time I told Preston that I had a crush on David. His eyes widened and he exclaimed, "David Thompson!" He's a good friend of ours. NOOO. Not David Thompson. David of the Bible. Preston doesn't really care if I have a crush on David of the Bible. He's been dead a really long time and apparently Preston's not threatened by dead people. But I don't say that anymore. I guess it's not appropriate.)

Anyway, David wrote a majority of the Psalms and he is truly all over the place emotionally. He prays for God's revenge on people. He dances for joy before the Lord. He groans in tears. He shouts praises to God. David is emotional. Through all of those emotions though, he always takes them before the Lord. David's God is my God. God understands these emotions. David was called "a man after God's own heart" and he was emotionally CRAZY. Maybe there's hope. Possibly I just need to follow David's example and pour out all these emotions before the Lord, let Him sift them, and trust Him to discipline me back to His truth.

Recently, I spoke a bit too loudly to my kids and then a second later I laughed at a joke one of my sons was telling me. My oldest son said, "Mom, that was weird. You were yelling at us and then you randomly burst into laughter over Josh's joke."

I tried to pull the "David" card. I tried to explain that I was a bit like David. I used my teaching holy voice. "Kids, if you read Psalms you'll see that David loves and hates within some of the same Psalms."

Yeah, not wise. I'm pretty sure that was the wrong use of the David card! David's emotional example in Psalms is his emotional pouring out before the Lord. Not in his sporadic treatment of others. Bummer. And then to put icing on an improper use of David's example, I hear...

"Mom, you are nothing like David." Ouch.
Trying to soften the statement a bit, he says,
"I mean, you're a girl for one."

Why must they be so honest?

Maybe I'll just take comfort in knowing that while I'm actually nothing like the David in the Bible that we have the same God that David had. God created our emotions. We can pour all of our emotions out before the Lord...even our lack of emotion. The mountaintops serve to encourage us...the valleys grow our faith.

What do the "in-betweens" do? The times when we aren't on the mountain or in the valley? I seem to be "there" a lot. Maybe that's the perseverance of our faith. God is God. That never changes regardless of where we are on the journey. Thank goodness.

Tomorrow's a new day. His promises are new.

Maybe I'll listen to Here I am to Worship in the morning. Maybe I'll just worship with a heart full of praise. Or maybe I'll still cry. But God is God. The same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He doesn't change...He never fails. He's a Rock. He's the Rock that a spiritual schizophrenic needs to hide under. I think I'm going to go hide for a while.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Wisdom from Wiser Moms

I went to a meeting at our church last night with moms who had raised their children.
They answered our questions and provided some great wisdom.
None of these are my thoughts, but I'm going to use them.
The following are the nuggets that I'm pondering from last night:

Remember that our imperfection as parents and their imperfections are why our children need a Savior. If we could be it all to them, they wouldn't need Jesus.

No matter how great the parenting, your kids will not come out of your home unscathed.

Our job is to equip them for adulthood.

At the end of the day, our job as parents is to get our child's hand in HIS.

Children are a blessing and arrows in a man's quiver. Proverbs says "Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them." Arrows weren't meant to stay in the quiver. They were meant to fly.

Find some significance outside of child-rearing. We are believers first. Not mothers first. Serve the kingdom even as you are raising your childrenIf you only serve your children, it will be difficult to let them go.

Humble yourself before your children.

Repent before your children.

If we feel their successes and failures reflect on us as parents that will be too much pressure for them.

There won't be one night that you go to bed and think "I did everything right today as a parent."

Always encourage their strengths.

When a family is kid-centered, our children can't help but think the world revolves around them.

When your kids are sharing something with you and you aren't sure what they want from you, ask them. Do you want me to listen? Do you want my opinion? Ask them what they need from you at that point.

Let them have opportunities to fall under the safety net of your home.

On Dating:

"We asked our children to wait until they were 18. Dating is to find a mate and before that point you aren't in a position to find a mate."

It's difficult when you break up and you are in a youth group and families are involved. It's even disruptive to the unity of a youth group when couples within the youth group break up.

The right person at the wrong time is still the wrong thing.

Remind them that you and their siblings want to affirm their choice in a mate.

Pray for their mate.

Tell your children to view those in their youth group as brothers and sisters in Christ...not as "potentials."

On Marriage in the midst of child-rearing:

God first. Husband second. Kids third. Kids third. Kids third.

You will be an empty nester. You will. Put your marriage first. Always.

In a healthy family, everyone takes turns getting their needs met. A child needs to know that sometimes it's not their turn.

On Siblings:

Point out strengths in each child in front of the other children.

Remind the children that their siblings are the ones they are going to have for a lifetime.

No matter where you go...I will be on your doorstep.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Contentment in Abundance

I'm so crabby today.

My healthy children are running around the house on strong legs making so much happy noise. I wish they'd keep it down.

Their bins of toys have been dumped all over the floor and a big yummy breakfast is still sitting on the kitchen table. What a mess.

My legs are tired because we walked all over Six Flags yesterday. It was almost hot outside.

I'm trying to sort through summer clothes and I'm irritated that some of the shirts still have tags on them. Why didn't we wear these this summer? I guess my kids are going to need to wear two shirts a day...or three.

I'm tired because my king size bed wasn't quite big enough to comfortably fit the two kids that crawled in bed with us last night...they just wanted to cuddle.

I have to drive to the doctor's office to pick up my child's immunization form before she can be enrolled in preschool. It's quite inconvenient.

The stock market is bouncing around. Our "extra" saved for a rainy day holds no promise of being there when we need it.

I'm behind emailing back my friends.

My family is coming to visit this weekend so I have lots of preparing to do.

My 3000+ sq. foot air-conditioned house is a mess. Football equipment, soccer cleats, dance bags cover the floor. All signs of our activities.

My homeschool stuff is not organized.

I haven't showered since...yesterday.

Oh, woe is me.

I wrote an email to my sister-in-law telling her about my "painful" task of cleaning out the storage room.

I used the word "painful" when describing a "storage" room.
The word I used to describe cleaning out a "storage" room was PAINFUL?
A storage room to hold my excess. My extra clothes, extra canned goods, extra stuff.
That's painful?

I'm so spoiled.
I should be thankful.

I think it was Max Lucado who said,
"The source of our struggle is our blessings."

I complain about my blessings.
My cell phone is dying. How will I live?
My child's doctor is across town. I have to drive to appointments.
I'm not thrilled with my wardrobe. But I have a closet of clothes.
My huge house is difficult to maintain.
I'm tired from all the fun I had yesterday at an amusement park. It's hard work to have so much fun.
It's hard to be so blessed.
Why do my blessings irritate me?

I'm so spoiled.
I have so much.

Contentment in abundance.
Why is that so difficult for me?

Paul writes in Philippians
"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength." (Phil. 4:11-13)

We have so much in this country. Most often the things that we lack would be considered "wants" in other counties. Food. Water. Shelter. Family. Friends. Freedom. Blessings...and then more blessings. Sometimes our blessings distract us from the Giver of the blessings. Our blessings have the potential to rank supreme in our heart. That's why Paul talks of having contentment in plenty. He knows that those of us with "plenty" struggle just as much with putting our hope in our blessings as those without struggle with wanting more. Our "plenty" will always leave us searching for an anchor just as our "lack of something" will.

There's nothing on this earth that can bear the full weight of our souls. No thing can grant our souls peace. Only the Creator is trustworthy with our souls. If blessings could sustain us, those in Hollywood would be the most content. Their needs appear to be met. They seem to have "extra" everything. Yet, their discontent splashes across the page of every tabloid.

No circumstance will leave us content.
God made us to find true contentment only in Him.

So maybe it's a blessing that our blessings disappoint. Maybe it's a gift to us that nothing satisfies. It reminds us that whether well fed or in plenty or in want...only Christ fulfills. Any other pursuit will leave us empty.

Lord, teach me to be faithful with my blessings.
Content no matter the circumstances.
Faithful with that which you have entrusted to me.

And help me to be thankful as I'm cleaning out my storage room...while my strong children are upstairs messing up my huge house.

My eternity is secure. I'm spending it in heaven worshipping the Lord. What do I really have to complain about?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Dammy's in da bar!

I love baby babble. Noah goes on and on telling us stories...he uses his hands, uses expression in his voice, he pauses for effect, and he even nods to our response. Most of the time we have no idea what he's talking about.

"Miiiilt" can be several things. Did you want "milk"...or are you "mad"...or are you talking about Uncle "Matt"...we don't know. We pretend to know though and we have so much fun interpreting.

Today he started to tell a story that was quite intense.
It ended with "Dammy's in da bar!"

Dammy, huh?
Who's Dammy, Noah?
He giggled. He was probably thinking, "You dopes...why are you talking in baby talk. That's not what I said!" But that is what he said. Over and over and over again.
"Dammy's in da bar."
"Dammy's in da bar."

We broke it down word by word. We skipped "Dammy." We weren't ready to tackle that yet. We got "in." We got "da" is really "the." So, "bar." Does he know what a bar is? Has he snuck out at night and been to a bar? Or "bar" like in gymnastics...that type of a bar?

Ohh....CAR....he means "CAR!" Apparently the "c" sound is hard to make.
So, "Dammy's in the car." What's dammy? His toy? His car seat? No idea.
We sat on that a while.

We were going through some pictures from the lake and Noah points to Papa. "Papa." He's so excited. We were excited that he knew Papa too. "Papa and Dammy." There it is. "Dammy"
Grammy is actually "Dammy."

Why didn't we guess?
"Dammy's in da bar" really means "Grammy's in the car." She wasn't. We looked just to make sure we hadn't left her out there. No Grammy. Noah looked at me and said, "No, Dammy."

Should we change Grammy's name? She already went through a name change once. She started out as Mama Kathy, but Zach pronounced it "Mama CaCa." We tried and tried to get him to say it right, but he just wouldn't. "Mama CaCa" is not the best term of endearment for a first time grandma. So we changed it to Grammy.

Mama CaCa...Dammy....maybe we should have stuck with our original idea "Mama Mia."
I just asked Noah to say "Mia" and he said "Meeeoooow." Great. A cat. I'm not sure my mom loves cats enough to answer to "meeeoooww."

I pointed to Grammy in the picture and said, "Mia." Noah said, "No, Dammy."
"My Dammy." Noah says. "My Dammy."
Oh, we can't change her name. It's Noah's Dammy.
He'll be saying "Grammy" in a few short months and this will be a memory.
I'll ask my mom, but I'm pretty sure she'll let her grandkids call her anything as long as "my" is in front of it.

I'm going to give some serious thought to what I want my grandkids to call me though.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

I'd Tell Her This

I just thought of what I'd tell that girl.
The girl in the picture from 16 years ago.
The young, hopeful bride.
I'd tell that girl this:

You don't wonder at this moment how this is all going to work.
You don't wonder if you're going to be married 2 years from now or 15 years from now.
You are thinking forever.
But there will come a time when you will question it all.
There will come a time when the vows you are saying today will be the only reason you both stay.
There will be dark nights that you will wonder if you will be married tomorrow...or in a week...or in a year.
Hang on to this: On your 16th wedding anniversary, you will still be married. You will still be loving your husband. He will be talking of a new love for you---a love that wants to look more like how Christ loved the church.
You will make it 16 years.
You will make it 16 years.

That's what I'd tell her.

16 Years

16 years.
We've been married 16 years today.

It was a whirlwind romance. Three months to the engagement. Six months later we were married. Ten months total. Most of it long distance.
We were young. In love. Made for one another.
We breezed through counseling. Obvious match.
We barely listened to wiser people talk of the reality of marriage.
We were different.
We weren't going to struggle.
We were in love.

It was a grand wedding. Air Force Academy Chapel.
Lots of friends and family.
A big party. Lots of food. Lots of dancing.
The perfect day. It really was the perfect day.

We wrote our vows. Memorized most of them. So sweet. They were so easy to say. We would have promised anything that day. Of course we'd spend our life together. Of course we'd be together through the good times and bad. Of course we understood 1 Corinthians 13. We were in love.

I think our wedding was a testimony to the Lord. We wanted it to be. The pews were filled with friends and family that were non-Christians and we wanted the gospel shared. It was our day. We had all of their attention. This was our chance to witness. I think we did.

We have a big wedding picture in our bedroom. We were looking at it this morning. 16 years later. We were so young. Barely 20 and barely 22. Innocence and hope fill the picture. We radiate love. Unblemished. Unscathed. Hopeful. It's hard to believe it's us. They seem like strangers.

What would you tell that man in the picture? I asked my husband.
"I'd tell him not to forget you're depraved," he quickly answered. He must have thought about it before. Interesting answer.
"What would you tell that girl in the picture?"
I can't think of anything. Even now, I can't think of anything I'd tell her...anything I'd want myself to have known on that day. I don't want to burst her bubble. I want her to believe in love and marriage. Enjoy that day, Girl. The real work is going to begin tomorrow.

Somewhere down the road, we began to understand that anything involving a vow is going to be hard. Sometime in the last 16 years, we each renewed our vows. Not verbally. I don't even know exactly when I did. I don't know when my husband did either. But we did. A deep, gut steadfastness that this marriage was not going to be destroyed. Somewhere down this road, we decided that we really were going to stay. We really were in this for the long haul. We really were committed. And I think that's when we really began to fall in love.

16 years. I'm glad I didn't know on July 21, 1995 what those 16 years were going to look like. I was too young to know that the richness of this journey with this man was not going to always be easy. In fact, it would come at great cost. I was too young to know that loving was going to take a lifetime of learning. I was too young to value the parts of my husband that have been the most life-giving to me through these years.

I'd do it again. I'd marry him again. I'd walk the path again. The good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful, the broken, the whole, the life, the death. I'd do it all again. I wouldn't change a thing. Happy Anniversary.